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Newport zoning code revisions approved

NEWPORT BEACH — Settling years of deliberation over rules that govern the city’s appearance and land use, the City Council voted Tuesday night to approve a revised zoning code.

One of the most contentious issues the council decided was a regulation that limited the size of homes. The council voted to keep the existing code’s formula, which has a uniform citywide calculation of floor-area limits, instead of varying rules for each neighborhood.

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Throughout a prolonged public review process, some in the community also protested the diminishing marine businesses in the city. City Council candidate Rush Hill, speaking as a resident, requested that the council add a sentence to the zoning code that would encourage marine uses be built along Mariner’s Mile.

The code already had some language to that effect, but Hill said, “There are some that believe one of the byproducts of the new zoning code is the discouragement of marine activity on Mariner’s Mile.”

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Hill was referring to a new mixed-use designation on Mariner’s Mile that would allow for condominiums and apartments to be built on West Coast Highway. Some in the boating community have argued that landowners would be able to get much more money from residential developers and would have less of an economic incentive to build or lease space for marine businesses.

Hill suggested that the council add a line that says, “Design of the nonresidential space to facilitate marine use is encouraged.” The council agreed.

Another zoning issue the council settled Tuesday concerned basements. When the city sets the maximum size of a home in the new zoning code, it will not account for the space in full-size basements. For instance, someone would be allowed to build a 4,000-square-foot house according to the size of the lot and other factors, and then build an additional 1,000-square-foot basement.

The council will cast a final vote on the zoning code at its Oct. 26 regular meeting.

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In other action:

By a vote of 6-1, the council approved the Banning Ranch Water Supply Assessment — a step in the process of the proposed 1,375-home Banning Ranch development. State law requires that cities determine if there is enough water available for developments with more than 500 homes. Councilwoman Nancy Gardner voted against approving the assessment, she said, because it was based on 2005 statistics that showed the state had much more water available than it does now. Since then, drought conditions have worsened and environmental rules have restricted the amount of water that can flow from Northern California. “It’s based on fantasy,” Gardner said.

The council decided to apply for funding to build four bridges, an entry gate and informational signs in the Upper Buck Gully Reserve Area, the nature preserve in the hills between Corona del Mar and Newport Coast. A $90,000 grant would come from a state habitat conservation program, and the city would be required to match the funds, for a total projected cost of $180,000.

Antonio Cagnolo, an area restaurateur, received approval for his outdoor fireplace. Cagnolo had built a 14-foot-tall outdoor fireplace in the setback of his backyard, an area not permitted for development by the city. He had appealed on grounds that there is very little useable land on his property, due to the topography of his backyard, and that the location would not disadvantage the surrounding properties or the neighborhood. The council approved his appeal.

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Members of the Bicycle Safety Committee were appointed by the City Council. The council chose Thomas Croxton, general manager with Circle Auto Group; Barbara Danzi, chief information security officer for Garda, a cash logistics company; former Mayor John Heffernan; Denis LaBonge, a former member of the Motorcycle Industry Council; Sean Matsler, a land-use attorney; Anthony Petros of LSA Associates Inc.; and Stephen Sholkoff, former chairman of the Bicycle Trails Advisory Committee.

Joanna Clay contributed to this article.


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